The West End Whingers joined 15 other audience members amid the tumbleweed that drifted around the Jermyn Street Theatre (Patron: HRH Princess Michael of Kent) auditorium last night.
Andrew had dragged Phil and Agency Phil (who fills in for Phil from time to time) to see the Postcards from God – the Sister Wendy Musical.
Andrew is a fan of Sister Wendy, having found her television programmes on art rather illuminating – to the degree that he rarely visits a gallery without a nun in tow these days.
And even though Phil isn’t a fan and Agency Phil was agnostic on the topic, the entire party went with the view that this was a promising subject for a show, an attitude supported by the enthusiastic comments posted on our ticket tip by ordinary members of the public who had seen the show.
Add to this the combination of such magnificent, universal themes such as art, religion and caravans and it all seemed rather promising. Yes, you can see what’s coming next, can’t you?
The show romps its way through Sister Wendy’s life but explores very little and commits the cardinal sin of telling us everything instead of showing us. Sometimes it doesn’t even tell very well. “Art is our birthright,” says SW at one point. Well, that flummoxed us all right.
There is absolutely no dramatic tension, no questions are raised and there is little to provoke any thought. The play is far too reverential of its subject and only the Andy Warhol number about the issue of fame delivers any interesting ideas.
The songs are forgettable and often engineered around a single pun such as the idea that nothing’s ever black and white – and that’s what nuns wear – geddit? An embarrassing and mainly inaudible rap number saw Andrew’s jaw hit the floor in disbelief. If WEW had a heart between them it would have gone out to the cast. The musicality isn’t helped by the fact that the only accompaniment comes from a lone piano. (You can judge for yourself by listening to some of the songs on the MySpace profile or on the show’s website).
Author Marcus Reeves had intended to play the role of Sister Wendy himself, a plan which almost prevented the show going ahead as Sister Wendy’s order objected. Instead Myra Sands (who created the role of Jennyanydots in Cats and played a nun in Ken Russell’s The Devils) plays the role. She is very successful in expressing the charm of Sister Wendy, but the lack of material prevents her from achieving much more than that.
On an almost endearingly tatty pop art set the all female cast of five struggled with an unresponsive crowd. Does 17 constitute a crowd? Anyway, it was down to 15 after the interval and – if Phil had had his way – would have been down to a round dozen (at least two of whom were friends of the cast).
Frankly, it was all rather embarrassing. “Was that as bad as Resurrection Blues?” Andrew asked somewhat rhetorically over a well-deserved glass of Merlot after the performance.
For Phil, the highlight of the evening (apart from the show ending, obviously) was discovering that the seat on which he had been sitting had been donated by Joan Rivers.
For Agency Phil, the evening was an education in just how much personal sacrifice is involved in the Whingers policing the quality of London theatre.
For Andrew, the evening had at least one epiphany – from now on he vows to attend the theatre religiously – at Christmas and Easter only.